THE ISLAND ON BIRD STREET
DIRECTOR: SOREN KRAGH-JACOBSEN
COUNTRY: DENMARK/UK/GERMANY 1997
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ian Wilson
MUSIC: Zbigniew Preisner
CAST: Patrick Bergin, Jordan Kisiuk, Jack Warden, James Bolam, Simon Gregor, Lee Ross, Michael Byrne
SUPER FEATURES: Awesome story and work.
For a film that is billed as a foreign entry, this is really one of those films that transcend classifications. It does help, for American audiences, that it does not have subtitles, and that what it does have in foregin languages, is not really "necessary" at all.
Europe has, over the years, issued many films that stand out as testimonials to survival, from the many people that were oppressed during World War II. This film, should be listed amidst some of the very best. Few have such a nice story, amidst such awful conditions as those that are presented in this film. And it is a tribute to the director that this film is so beautifully polished and comes off so well. And if this is not enough, it also includes the beautiful music of Zbigniew Preisner, so descriptive and ready to help the film along. It is not a showy score, like a Hollywood mammoth picture show, but it is subtle, and solid, and speaks many more volumes than otherwise.
It is taken from Polish writer Uri Orlev's novel about his his survival instinct and luck during a time when the Germans were segregating the Jews and exterminating as many as they could. Alex manages to survive in the rubble of the household where he had lived, with only one companion, a small mouse, who was instrumental in helping him find food, the mainstay of his survival for several months. And the main line in the film seems to be the father's strong conviction and faith, that he will return and that they will see each other again, if they come apart, which is likely.
During this time. Alex manages to create himself a space, where he is less likely to be found, or disturbed by anyone like the Germans, or curiosity seekers, or thieves. From his spot, he can see across the street, into a building, where a girl his age lives. As Alex becomes familiar with the surroundings, he discovers that there are underground tunnels that help him get out from under the brick walls and barricades. He also manages to help the cause of these Jews, by finding a doctor once, and eventually making friends with the young girl. But his act of heroism, may have been the undoing for the helpful doctor one time, as the film suggests.
In time, the wall comes down, and the residents return, and in the film's finest moments, the father returns. Although the lighting suggests that this might be another dream, it is not, and the film comes to a close. The young man has survived, with a little luck involved, and is doing well, although he no longer has around the girl he had met, or his pet mouse, who had been instrumental in finding his food.
With some excellent performances, Jack Warden being one of the best, this film marks what the value of many foreign films have that Hollywood has rarely appreciated, and has failed to take to the American public. This is a rare film, and beauty to watch all the way through.
With some awesome sets, and designs, this film has very little that could be said to be weak, or bad. It's "truth" is what makes it, and the film does not complicate things.
Beautifully directed, and acted. Excellent film. MUST SEE.
4.5 of 5 GIBLOONS
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